I didn’t know her name. She was already asleep when I got in the van. She didn’t move until we reached the hospital and then only because some one shook her until she was awake enough to walk to the waiting room. She laid down on a tiny bed, about the right size for a toddler and fell asleep again. Her face was so pale and her lips looked huge in the withdrawn face. It was easy to forget that she was even there, she was so silent and among all the other kids who were clamoring for attention.
I have lived in a country with fantastic medical care my entire life. I live in a country where most children who are born alive will be alive on their 18th birthday. I had never before seen a child dying, yet I recognized it. When the news came the next day that she had died, I was not shocked. However, this little girl changed my life.
A child dying is a tragedy. However, a child dying without a mother or father is even worse. Her death marked the first time that I understood what “orphan” meant. Orphan means that no one is there to love you best of all. Orphan means that the anniversary of your birth passes with no one taking time to pause and remember it. Orphan means that if you die, no one is standing by your casket knowing that a large piece of her heart is being buried with you. Orphan means that when you die, your life is truly over because your parents aren’t there to keep your memory alive.
So this little girl is in my memory, but I only have memories of her so close to the end that I have no idea what she was like. I’ve been told that she was a good friend, that she had a wonderful smile, that she loved to sing. I know that this little girl needed someone to be there and that she died waiting for that someone.
I wish I could write something super pithy and wrap this story up with some nifty closing. Unfortunately, there is no prince and no wicked stepmother and no happily ever after in this tale. Instead, I just hope that you will take this to heart. Everyone has the ability to do something to make the world better. Everyone has an obligation to use that ability. Fulfill your obligation.